Just now getting to my weekend e-mails, and I see this one from Bob Coble:
I wanted to give you an update from the City County RTA Committee that met at City Hall last Thursday. City Council members include me, EW Cromartie, and Kirkman Finlay. Belinda Gergel also joined us. County Council members include Damon Jeter, Val Hutchinson, and Joyce Dickerson. Chairman Joe McEachern also attended. The Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce and other groups also were in attendance. The first meeting had four presentations from staff on a variety of background issues. Joe Cronin of the County gave an excellent overview of how our RTA compares to peer cities. I believe that all the Committee members strongly agree on two fundamental points. First that transit is an essential public service that is critical for those who depend on bus service to get to their job and the doctor; an essential environmental tool to prevent non-attainment status and become a green community; and is vital to continuing economic development. Secondly, that the County and the City have the capacity to provide funding currently and it would be unacceptable not to do so.
Frannie Heizer, as the attorney for the RTA, presented the current legal options for funding. She made the following points: First, a sales tax referendum could not be held until November 2010 (Richland County Council could call the referendum now for 2010). Secondly, Frannie believes that the use of hospitality tax for transit would require a change of state law in the 2009 Legislative Session. The County has asked for an Attorney General’s Opinion to see if hospitality tax could be used now without a change in state law. Thirdly, neither City nor County property tax can be used without a referendum and then property tax would be limited by the cap on milage. Fourth, the mass transit fee by the County and the vehicle registration fee by the City and County are available now (both fees are different legally but to the taxpayer are paid in the same way and the same amount).
When we establish a funding plan, other issues that were discussed included the need for other governments and partners to participate in funding the RTA; doing a comprehensive operations analysis; and changing the RTA organizational structure to have advisory members for those governments that are not providing money to the system.
The next meeting will be Friday November 14th at 9:30 am at the RTA headquarters on Lucius Road. We are inviting three members from the Lexington County Council to participate.
Thanks. I will keep you updated.